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Down :-(
travel_lover3
I feel really down at the moment. The first reason is that I miss Dave like mad, and wish with all my heart that we were able to live in the same place, not 200 miles away from each other. The second reason is that I'm reading travel blogs from STA Travel's website, including my own one from a couple of years ago and my friend R's from a year or two before that, and I feel such sadness that I'm not travelling right now, it's like a dull ache in my heart. I know not many people would sympathise with me, but I can't help it. There's something inside me which is crying out to be released. I still miss travelling like crazy and I got back from that three years ago at the end of June! (Apart from mine and Dave's amazing road trips round Wales and Scotland, which were beacons of freedom and travel last summer and the one before that.)

I'm also not looking forward to work today because D is on holiday, which means that unless my manager arranged extra cover for this morning, when I get there at 2 there'll be tons and tons of stuff still left to pack, because A is still very slow at it, and the girl who's down to pack with him until I get there is quite slow still as well. Which means that unless my manager helps me, my blood pressure and stress levels will go through the roof trying to get all the packing done before A and K leave and I go on my break (I don't have time to pack after my break because I have to do the reductions and the count and slice endless amounts of loaves of bread...) Knowing my luck, as well as all the rolls and other things that have to be packed with the packing machine, there'll be two or three whole racks of cookies to pack too, and I won't be able to start packing straight away anyway because like usual I'll have to merchandise the doughnuts, loaves of bread and French sticks first.

Oh, and I have a terrible black eye from Sunday as well. It happened whilst playing rugby for the first team against the Worcester ladies' first team. The funny thing is that when it happened (an accident, a flailing hand either in a ruck or a tackle, I don't actually remember which) it felt like I'd just got a scratch from a fingernail across my eyelid. It somehow knocked my contact lens out, so I was down on one knee putting it back in, when I noticed something blocking part of my view from that eye. For a split second I wondered if it was my scrum cap slipping over my eye, or a lock of hair, but then I realised it was actually a massive swelling between my eyelid and my eyebrow. I managed to get the lens back in, but the wrong side down - but I couldn't afford to be out of the game for any longer so had to play the rest of the game with it how it was. Though I say so myself, I had a very good game, though you wouldn't know it by the score; we lost really heavily, and their England players weren't even playing because they were in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Sevens tournament!

I did have a really good day last Thursday, though. I went to Hampton Court, getting in for free due to my Historic Royal Palaces membership card. It was a really sunny day, and I stopped at Morrisons on the way to the station to get some food for a picnic lunch later. At St Pancras International I was so excited about seeing Hampton Court at last, I didn't feel the jolt of longing when I passed by the Eurostar entrance as much as I usually do. At Vauxhall station there was a fruit stall offering punnets of strawberries for £1.50, so I bought one to have with my chicken caesar wrap, chocolate blancmangey pot, Diet Coke and tube of fruit mentos later on.
Hampton Court and its gardens were both brilliant, just like I thought they would be. I saw the Tudor kitchens, the Georgian private apartments, the Royal Chapel (which had a beautiful painted ceiling with carvings on the wooden beams) the Great Hall, the old wine cellar, and the exhibition about the younger Henry VIII. The one thing that I think would improve the experience even more, is if there was a bit more information given about each place. For example, in the Tudor kitchens it would be great if there were some signs up about how they would have been used in Tudor times, and what typical dishes were, and about Tudor cookery in general. I'm lucky enough to have read a couple of books about it, but I'm not sure how many foreign tourists would have. The audio commentary might do that, I suppose (I didn't use one), but it would be good to have some written information about it too.
The gardens were great to walk round, too. I saw a grey heron close up, and several swans and coots in the waterways. I ate my lunch on the grass, sitting against a tree - the strawberries were OK but I have had better; I suppose I shouldn't have expected otherwise in March, really. It was still an idyllic place to eat and relax in the sun, though. Then I saw the Great Vine (the biggest and oldest in Europe, apparently...), went round the maze, and generally wandered around. There were loads of flowering daffodils on the grass near the maze, and the bluebells and primroses had flowered elsewhere as well. When I go back, I'll go in the summer when the grapes on the Great Vine have ripened and are being sold. The rose garden must be a great sight later in the year when the roses have flowered, too.
When I eventually left Hampton Court, between 4 and 4.30pm, I sat by the riverbank reading 'Wild Wales' for a while, and looked around for flat skimming stones without success. I couldn't go straight home because I had an off-peak ticket and wasn't allowed to travel between 4.30 and 7pm, so what I decided to do was walk along the road to Kingston-upon-Thames and look around. It took me rather longer than I expected to get there. Once I arrived I walked round town, and discovered a gazebo like the one Dave and I saw in Chester, selling exotic burgers and steaks. This time I couldn't let the opportunity pass by, so despite the cost (£5 for a single burger with no accompaniments!) I bought a springbok burger. I thought I'd try something I've never had before, and I've already tried ostrich and kangaroo in the past. The springbok was slightly different to what I expected - I thought for some reason that it would be very red, like kangaroo, but it wasn't. The texture was both tender and a bit springy, and the flavour was quite like beef. The burger also had camramelised onions and cheddar cheese in it, with a little bit of tomato relish and mustard. (I scraped off the mustard, though.) Once I finished that I went into the shopping centre and read bits of various books in WHSmiths for quite a while, until it was time to walk back to Hampton Court Station.

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